Keeping children healthy requires a great deal of coordination. From choosing the right doctors to keeping up with vaccination schedules, the list of things needing attention can be overwhelming. But keeping to a schedule of regular check-ups can put you ahead of the game.
“Children often can’t express the changes happening in their bodies, so there’s a greater chance of issues being ignored until the situation is critical,” said Dr Siddarth Arora, a pediatrician at Medcare Women and Child Hospital. “That’s why these health checks are very important on a regular basis, as opposed to when the need arises.”
Children between the ages of five and 10, for example, should see a doctor for a well-child visit once a year.
On top of that, Dr Siddarth recommends that children get regular check-ups such as eye exams, dental checks, pre-adolescent obesity workups and even mental-health screenings. A lot can be learned from these routine visits, especially when children can be genetically predisposed to certain illnesses.
“Some family issues like diabetes and hypertension can be identified early and habits that may prevent their early onset can be implemented at a young age when the mind is impressionable,” she said.
Spotting eye problems
Maintaining healthy eyes is a critical part of development that can affect a child socially as well as academically. Preventative eye care starts at birth and should become a lifelong endeavor. Newborns are checked by a pediatrician at birth and again at eight weeks to rule out cataract and glaucoma. It is important to have children’s eyes checked regularly as early diagnosis can save a child’s vision for life.
As pediatric ophthalmologist, Elias Traboulsi explained, “A comprehensive eye exam by an eye care professional if possible is recommended by age one and should be repeated before kindergarten in children without any evident eye problems.” These routine eye exams are even more critical for children who have a sibling or parent with a major eye problem, such as strabismus (crossed eyes) or amblyopia (lazy eye). It’s important to note that even “if there are no obvious symptoms, your child may still have a vision problem,” he said.
Eye health screenings and visual acuity tests, which measure the sharpness of vision, can diagnose eye problems. But as always, parents are the first line of defense. You should watch your child for signs of poor vision and if you notice any problems, have your child examined right away. If caught early, some conditions can be corrected.
When it comes to spotting eye problems, the age of the child is important. In small children, watch for constant eye rubbing, extreme sensitivity to light and abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes. In school-aged children, mannerisms give clues about possible eye problems. Ensuring that your child can see clearly goes a long way toward helping them grow and develop properly.
Oral care for kids
“According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a check-up every six months is recommended. However, your child’s pediatric dentist might recommend fewer or more frequent visits depending on their risk factors for oral health problems,” said Dr Ghadeer Alkhadra, a pediatric dentist at Appolonia Dentistry for Children. “Regular check-ups can help find potential dental issues before they become a problem. For example, removing tooth decay at the very early stages of a cavity is much less invasive than repairing cavities caught later on. This will avoid a crown or root canal treatment.”
A routine visit starts with teeth cleaning, then a check for cavities and gum disease. After that, the dentist will evaluate the child’s risk of tooth decay. A sealant or fluoride can be applied to reduce the risk of decay and if there’s a hint of internal problems, an X-ray may be taken. The pediatric dentist should also discuss your child’s diet and oral hygiene habits during each check-up and demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques.
Appolonia is the only dental center in the UAE that focuses on helping kids of all ages, from infants up to 18 years old. There is also kid-friendly decor, games and entertainment. From the life-sized Superman to the large flat screen TV mounted on the ceiling above the treatment chair, every effort is made to make children feel comfortable. They’ve also partnered with KidZania Abu Dhabi to offer activities designed to decrease fear and anxiety, said Dr Ghadeer.